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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Families have nothing to fear


Family (kinship), is defined by Brittanica as “a group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, constituting a single household and interacting with each other in their respective social positions, usually those of spouses, parents, children, and siblings.” As time has gone on, families have effectively changed with the times. The idea of a western nuclear family is still the norm, but the ideas around traditional values – having a house with a picket fence, a mom and dad with two-and-a-half children have changed. With this, so-called “family values” have changed, too. 

Specifically in politics, hailing a candidate as “family–values oriented” typically means they oppose abortion, birth control, homosexuality, feminism, sex education in high schools, divorce and atheism. As politics have changed, family values and parental rights have become platform values that republican candidates tend to lean on, appealing to conservative members of American society. These same candidates push individualism, nationalism, and typically hold Judeo-Christian values, which they may use as an explanation for their “family values.” 

Against the stereotypical grain of Judeo-Christian values, but still falling under most of these checkboxes, lies Republican candidate for president, Vivek Ramaswamy, who five months ago, uploaded a 40–minute video to YouTube titled “The Assault on Family: How Society is Losing its Most Important Institution.” In the video, Ramaswamy goes into great detail on how “the left’s assault on the nuclear family will destroy America.” 

But, let’s be serious. There is no such thing as an ‘assault’ on familial structures. Throughout my research for this article, I could not find a single political organization or PAC advocating for the destruction of nuclear families or advocating for current nuclear families to be dissolved. Not a single person is “launching an assault on nuclear families,” as Ramaswamy claims. Conservatives painting themselves to be victims because they refuse to accept change is not anyone else’s problem, but they are insistent on externalizing this issue and making it the American people’s problem. 

This brings us to the issue of book banning amongst states. Current states that support book banning claim book banning is in favor of parental rights. What this does is create entitlement and individualism that perpetuates a culture of selfishness. If a parent is not comfortable with their child reading a specific book in a library, it is well within their right for them to instruct their child not to rent it or read it. It is not respectful of other people’s rights to campaign school boards, all the way up to state legislatures, for books to be removed from libraries. This very idea goes against what conservatives tout as ‘parental rights,’ being able to make decisions for their own kids. By campaigning for books to be removed from libraries they take away another parent’s ability to allow their child to rent said book from the library, which is occurring across the nation. 

What the ideology around parental rights and family values boils down to is fear. Conservatives fear ideas. They fear that their students will be indoctrinated by reading books, so they shelter their children. They fear that their children will have sex, so they shelter their children from sex education. They fear that their children will “turn gay,” so they shelter their children from media featuring LGBTQ+ personalities. Conservatives have such a deep rooted fear of their children being anything less than the “perfect American ideal” that they will shelter and isolate their children from culture. According to Bobby Azarian, Ph.D., conservative’s brains are more reactive to fear than centrist or leftist brains. “Using MRI, scientists from University College London have found that students who identify themselves as conservatives have a larger amygdala than self-described liberals. This brain structure is involved in emotion processing, and it’s especially reactive to fearful stimuli. It is possible that an oversized amygdala could create a heightened sensitivity that may cause one to habitually overreact to anything that appears to be a potential threat, whether it actually is one or not,” writes Dr. Azarian. This fear may lead conservative parents to advocate for book banning, or for homeschooling. 

The fear rooted in conservative parent’s brains can ultimately end up setting their children up for failure. Sheltering children from different opinions, parenting styles, or even other children, has shown to have an impact on children’s brain development, and eventually produce adults who struggle with adapting and accepting criticisms and disagreements. From the University of Baltimore School of Law, in “Homeschooling: Choosing Parental Rights over Children’s Interests,” Martha Fineman and George B. Shepard writes “Homeschooling, the most extreme form of privatization of education, often eliminates the possibility of the child gaining the resources essential for success in adult life. It sacrifices the interests of the child to the interests of the parents, allowing them to control and isolate the child’s development.” 

Fineman and Shepard go on to publish, “Although many parents undoubtedly homeschool their children for benign reasons, it is undeniable that some parents homeschool their children in order to indoctrinate them with extreme views while isolating them from moderate, competing views. This type of indoctrination reinforces the falsehoods sometimes taught to homeschooled children, leading to conflict with the scientific truth taught at more inclusive public schools. This not only harms the individual student, it harms the greater cohesion of society, creating discord and strife that prevent our country from working toward common goals.”

The fear of different ideas and opinions are driving wedges between people in our country. It’s driving families to isolate themselves, leading to children whose education and socialization are in jeopardy. Above all, the perpetuation of individualism is destroying the work that others do to help raise a child. There cannot be one sole person attributed to the raising of a child. As a product of the public school system, there is something to be said of teacher’s impact on their students. For some students, they see their educators more than their own parents – the very parents that conservatives argue should have full dictation and control over their children. 

Whether you agree with it or not: it takes a village to raise a child. The only way to develop and prepare the next generation is to expose them to different opinions, parenting styles and people. The scripture teaches that we should not raise our children to fear our neighbors, we should raise them to love. We should raise them to be kind and to lead with curiosity. The conservatives who use their Judeo-Christian values as an excuse to isolate their children should revisit the primary source that they use to back their arguments, and open their mind to the positive impacts of raising their children within their community. 

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